The COVID-19 Quick Guide for Social Media Marketing Instructors

Here’s a quick, eye-opening experiment:

Open any social media marketing textbook. Now, find a reference to COVID-19. 

How did that work out for you? 

Most social media marketing instructors know the answer before even opening the book. The coronavirus pandemic appeared so recently that most textbook publishers won’t provide updates about COVID-19 until next year, or the year after, or the year after that. We don’t blame them. Textbook revisions are expensive to make, expensive to print, and expensive to distribute.

That’s why we’re so proud of Michelle Charello and her digital textbook, Essentials of Social Media Marketing. Michelle has already made over 150+ updates to her textbook to include the strategic responses of major social media platforms to the coronavirus pandemic this term

Stukent is thrilled to have subject matter experts like Michelle Charello covering the ever-changing world of social media marketing. Their hard work helps instructors worldwide deliver course content that’s current and credible. And today’s students, more than ever, need to know what’s happening NOW.

For an overview of how the major social media channels are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, see the highlights below. To get the highlights and free access to the digital textbook, keep reading here first, then go here to get started.

How Major Social Media Channels Are Responding To the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus situation caught the world by surprise. Since the first alarms were sounded in early 2020, we’ve learned much and we’ve changed much. The response from major social media channels follows similar patterns, as you’ll see below, but there are peculiarities to each channel that are well worth consideration.

Facebook’s response to COVID-19

The importance of social media channels to life in the 21st Century was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. From official requests for citizens to avoid travel as much as possible to businesses leaning more on work-from-home arrangements for employees, social media channels have proven themselves to be a valuable means of staying connected and informed.

Facebook sought to limit misinformation and remove potentially harmful content. Methods included creating the Facebook COVID-19 Information Center, relying on fact-checking organizations to provide clarity (at an investment of over $100 million), and prohibiting deceitful ads selling COVID-19 supplies.

Support for community health and economic relief. The company created Facebook Shops to help businesses sell online (since many were forced to close due to the epidemic). Facebook donated $25 million to healthcare workers, $20 million in matching donations to COVID-19 relief efforts, invested $100 million in small business aid, and provided assistance to global health organizations. Facebook used proprietary data and tools to help researchers understand the spread of the virus, created a business resource hub, and launched additional ways for concerned citizens to support local businesses, donate to nonprofits, find job opportunities, and donate blood. Facebook also provided internet connectivity to segments of the population most impacted by coronavirus.

Facebook’s ability to serve as a connector went beyond friends and family. The platform helped governments and health organizations by providing them with free messaging via the Facebook News Feed, Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp. The company donated $2 million to support mental health crisis helplines and shared well-being resources with users. 

Further information is available in chapter four of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

Instagram’s response to COVID-19

Since Instagram is a Facebook company, the COVID-19 response is somewhat coordinated. Both, for example, are relying on fact-checkers, removing posts rated “false,” and prohibiting potentially misleading ads. Given the difference in the two platforms, though, some of the responses are unique to Instagram.

Instagram introduced Instagram Shops to help businesses sell online. Instagram also made it easier for users to support small businesses by purchasing gift cards or even by ordering food from the app.

Search capabilities expanded. Resources added to Instagram Search provide additional information on searches for “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.”

New Instagram Stories stickers provide helpful info. The new stickers include reminders about handwashing, social distancing, and a “Stay Home” sticker.

Fundraising on Instagram Live. All the money collected goes to nonprofits chosen by the donating user.

Further information is available in chapter five of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

Twitter’s response to COVID-19

Twitter saw a massive need for answers to questions about COVID-19. In response, the platform leveraged it’s outreach capabilities to help users find accurate information and stay connected.

Twitter vetted accounts providing reliable information. COVID-19 misinformation could lead someone to put themselves or others at unnecessary risk. Twitter verified accounts deemed trustworthy.

Twitter leveraged #KnowTheFacts prompts. Users specifying the KnowTheFacts hashtag are providing information deemed credible on Twitter. The hashtag expanded to include COVID-19 data.

Misinformation isn’t tolerated. The platform took aim at unverified claims, created a more restricted ad policy for COVID-19, removed tweets thought harmful or misleading, and used machine learning to help find manipulative content.

Partnering with others. Question-and-answer sessions with World Health Organization (WHO) officials, support for developers of software solutions related to COVID-19, cooperation with governmental agencies, and an employee matching donation program were some of the ways Twitter joined with others to lessen the impact of COVID-19.

Further information is available in chapter six of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

Snapchat’s response to COVID-19

COVID-19 was first reported in the United States in late January of 2020. Within one month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned the virus could reach epidemic levels and the first community-spread coronavirus cases were reported. March saw cases in the United States grow from under 100 to over 100,000. In that same month, user reliance on the Snapchat calling feature doubled.

Snapchat expanded access to news. The app provided news releases from over three dozen media partners. 

Snapchat expanded its own news coverage. The Snapchat news team produced their own reports on the pandemic, shared tips, and held question-and-answer sessions with medical experts.

A COVID-19 donation lens launched. To help support global relief efforts, Snapchat launched an augmented reality donation lens to raise funds for the World Health Organization. 

Here For You launched. The new feature helps Snapchatters cope with mental health challenges, grief, bullying, and other emotional stressors. In-app support includes expert resources and proactive support.

Further information is available in chapter seven of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

Pinterest’s response to COVID-19

Pinterest usage rates broke all-time highs in 2020. Searches were up 60 percent year-over-year, and messages via the Send a Pin feature increased by 34 percent. Searches for “support small business” were up 351 percent, and searches on topics like homeschooling, stress relief, and growing vegetables showed significant increase.

Pinterest launched the Today tab. Users can find personal inspiration and explore popular pins via the new Today tab. The new feature also provides access to content from WHO, CDC, and other agencies.

Compassionate search helps direct certain searches. Users looking for information on topics like “stress relief” or “stress quotes” are served a collection of well-being exercises and other activities from health experts.

Pinterest Shop launched a new collection. Shoppable products from select businesses were added to Pinterest Shop. Celebrity influencer Lauren Conrad curated a board of eco-friendly products, and Pinterest invited businesses to share their stories in order to be featured on the app.

A new Pinterest one-sheeter provided brand guidelines. COVID-19 tips on the new one-sheeter include being honest, staying positive, helping Pinners cope, and exhibiting empathy. 

Further information is available in chapter eight of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

LinkedIn’s response to COVID-19

LinkedIn’s popularity among career-oriented users naturally lent itself to increased access by workers either switching to work-from-home status or those out of work due to the pandemic. As demand increased, LinkedIn stepped up to share resources and help boost productivity.

LinkedIn created a COVID-19 Resource Hub. “We’re in it together,” says LinkedIn. Whether you need help finding a job, learning new skills (or improving current skills), accessing resources appropriate to the “new world of work,” or locating volunteer opportunities, the new resource page can help.

Special reports curate the news. The Coronavirus Special Report and Workforce Insights Newsletter curate information about the pandemic’s effect on the economy and the workforce. 

Free courses via LinkedIn Learning. Tips for working remotely, time management when working from home, how to use Zoom — a bevy of LinkedIn Professional Development courses are now free on the platform. 

LinkedIn live events provide options to in-person venues. From live-streaming of the Chanel seasonal runway shows to a question-and-answer session with WHO officials, LinkedIn is leveraging real-time capabilities to keep users active and aware.

Further information is available in chapter nine of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

YouTube’s response to COVID-19

Google’s YouTube platform joined in the efforts to stop misinformation from proliferating. YouTube policies expanded to include a page outlining YouTube’s handling of medical content related to the virus. Content contradicting WHO officials or local health authorities is not allowed on YouTube.

YouTube partnered with the CDC. YouTube and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined forces to provide a COVID-19 personal assessment via a health panel in YouTube search.

The Explore tab introduced a new button. Creators participating in the #StayHome #WithMe campaign were provided a destination button on the Explore tab in YouTube.

Helped people learn from home. The new “Learn at Home with YouTube” page provides resources to help families with children cope with the upheaval in classroom education. Khan Academy, Kidz Bop, and the Princeton Review and others hopped in to help out.

YouTube banned monetization for certain videos. Content determined to contain distressing footage, medical misinformation, or pranks and challenges are examples of content not eligible for monetization. 

Further information is available in chapter ten of the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook.

COVID-19, Social Media Platforms, and Keeping up with Change

Maybe the pandemic will pass by soon and the world will return to “normal.” Or maybe “the new normal” is with us to stay. Time will tell. It is safe to say, though, that COVID-19 has already impacted businesses and consumer behavior profoundly. The job of social media marketers is to adapt where needed and stay current with changing conditions. The challenge for social media marketing instructors is keeping up with the changes and revamping lesson plans accordingly.

By the way, there’s one other feature in the Essentials of Social Media Marketing digital textbook that will make it your preferred resource for teaching social media marketing. Case studies in the Student Resources section provides examples of real-life scenarios, then challenge students to develop strategies to help the business survive and thrive — even under adverse circumstances.

There’s much more to say, but we’ll stop for now. Social media marketing instructors can click here to request FREE access to Essentials of Social Media Marketing. There’s no doubt the times are perilous, but opportunities often abound during perilous times. Preparing students for careers in digital marketing may be more difficult now than ever, but resources like digital textbooks and virtual simulations make it absolutely possible.

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